Reproductive Rights at Stake in the Supreme Court


Chavi Koneru, Policy Analyst & Operations Coordinator at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States made a decision on a case out of Texas that gave women in the United States the right to choose to get an abortion; a decision that women are still fighting to have respected. Forty-three years after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court will hear another case out of Texas, one that will also leave a lasting impact on reproductive rights, for better or for worse.

The case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, centers around HB2, a bill passed by the Texas legislature in 2013 that enacted new restrictions for abortion providers. The law required any physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. It also mandated that abortion clinics meet the building requirements of an ambulatory surgical center including having 8-foot-wide hallways and two janitorial closets; requirements that clearly would have no positive impact on the health or safety of women seeking abortions and were not imposed on any other types of medical procedures.

Represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Whole Woman’s Health, along with other clinics, challenged the law based on the undue burden standard established by the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In Casey, the Court ruled that any law whose “purpose or effect is to place substantial obstacles in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability,” unconstitutionally placed an undue burden on her access to abortion. Whole Woman’s Health’s challenge to HB2 is based on the fact that the regulatory burdens imposed by the law would “dramatically reduce the number and geographic distribution of medical facilities in the State where women can access safe abortion, while providing no benefit to abortion patients whatsoever.” The cost involved with complying with the requirements of HB2 would shut down three-fourths of the clinics in Texas, leaving only 10 abortion clinics available for a state of almost 27 million people.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will clearly have an impact on the women of Texas but it will also determine the ability of North Carolina women to access reproductive care. During just the past few years, we have seen several new barriers to abortion access under the guise of protecting women’s health and safety. In fact, the requirements of HB2 might even sound familiar to North Carolinians who remember SB353 passed in 2013, otherwise known as the Motorcycle Vagina law. If the Supreme Court upholds HB2, not only should we expect to see more TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws but we should also expect a wide variety of other deceptive laws that would create higher costs, lengthier delays, and additional obstacles for women seeking abortion care. On the other hand, if the Supreme Court finds HB2 to be unconstitutional, laws such as our recently enacted physician reporting requirements could require a legal determination of whether they cause an undue burden. North Carolina legislators would finally have to answer for all the unjust laws they have put in place to shame women away from utilizing their right to choose.

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While we know that there is a risk that the Supreme Court may put an end to Roe as we know it, there is also the strong hope that this decision will put women several steps closer to being able to fully exercise their right to choose.

The case is likely to be heard in late February or early March with a decision by June. Keep reading the NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina blog for updates on the case!

Giving Thanks for Birth Control at UNC Chapel Hill

By Abby Kaufmann, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Communications Intern and senior at UNC Chapel Hill

After 3 years at UNC Chapel Hill, I have become very familiar with the general clinic at Campus Health Services but I had never really utilized their Women’s Health Services until this October when I got an intrauterine device (IUD). I am currently interning at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina where 10 hours of my week involves researching articles about reproductive justice issues, many of which are about birth control access and affordability. At the time I began the internship, however, I was not on birth control. The risk I was taking really started to nag at me, making anything intimate seem extra nerve-wracking and less enjoyable until I finally decided to do something about it.

A few weeks prior to making the decision to get an IUD, I had to go to campus health multiple times for a cold that just wouldn’t go away. Each time I was there, I couldn’t help but appreciate the free condoms throughout the building and the pamphlets on safe sex that included tips for queer people. But what really caught my attention were the charts on birth control in every exam room I visited, like this one:

I saw that with condoms, my go-to method of birth-control at the time, there was still anywhere between a 2%-18% chance of getting pregnant (depending upon whether or not they are used correctly).  I had tried things like the pill and the NuvaRing in the past but I was always forgetting when to take the pill or when to replace the ring which I knew made them less effective. I decided that an IUD would be the best way to go; not only are IUDs more effective than birth-control pills and the NuvaRing, they last for years.

The first time I heard about an IUD was in a magazine article in 2012. Even then, I recognized the benefits and expressed interest in getting one to my gynecologist in Cary at the time. She didn’t think it was a good idea and successfully scared me into changing my mind. She told me that, since I had never given birth, it would be painful and that this pain was too much for most of her younger clients so she often had to remove their IUDs. She said that the NuvaRing would be my best option since it would be easier to remember and that it was just as effective as an IUD (I now know that both of these statements were false). I expected a similar reaction at Campus Health but was pleasantly surprised to find a wealth of resources about IUDs and to feel supported by both the nurses and the doctors.

I thought I would be able to just show up, have the procedure, and then go about my business for the next 3 years but this was not the case. When you make an appointment to get an IUD at Campus Health Services, you are required to have a brief consultation first so that you can discuss the various types of IUDs and what to expect during the procedure. After that, I also had to make an appointment for a well woman exam so they could check for STDs, do a pap smear, perform a breast exam, and assess my health in general. While it was a little annoying to have to come back so many times, I realized that it was all because Campus Health actually cared about my overall wellbeing. It also provided a good opportunity to get to know the doctor before the procedure.

Usually, CHS prefers to do the procedure when you are menstruating so that they can rule out any chance of pregnancy (even though they do a pregnancy test anyways) because of the life-threatening risks associated with getting an IUD while pregnant. Because of this, some students may have to wait longer than they would like to before they can get their IUD but in the end, it’s really for their own good.

To say that I was impressed with UNC Campus Health Women’s Services would be an understatement. They made sure I felt comfortable about the procedure not only during the procedure itself but before and after it as well. Never once did I feel judged or discouraged from making my decision.

I would encourage my peers to utilize UNC Campus Health’s birth control resources If you attend a different university, don’t be afraid to contact campus health on your campus to see what services they provide. Also, be sure to check out Bedsider for ways to bring birth control to your campus and to compare methods side-by-side.

November is a month for giving thanks and this November, I’m thankful for birth control. And I’m thankful that Campus Health Services at UNC understands that, as college students, we already have so many things to worry about and that getting pregnant doesn’t have to be one. #ThxBirthControl

This post is part of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s Student Perspectives on Reproductive Justice blog series. To write a post for the series, please contact our advocacy & organizing manager at

The 2015 Legislative Session…#ThatsSCARYNC

Chavi Koneru, Policy Analyst and Operations Coordinator at NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina 

We are finally on the other side of the tunnel that was the 2015 legislative session, and it has now become clear that the reproductive freedoms of North Carolinians have, once again, been gravely harmed.

Read on below and join us for a Halloween Twitter chat on October 29 at 7PM to call out the General Assembly’s scary decisions during the 2015 legislative session.

In the deceptive game they played this session, legislators and the Governor claimed to be looking out for the well-being of women, and gave bills titles such as the “Women and Children’s Protection Act of 2015.” In reality, these bills created additional, unnecessary barriers to access for reproductive care, and imposed severe limitations on choice.

Had the legislature sincerely wanted to promote the health and well-being of women in North Carolina, they might have passed the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, which would have prevented pregnant workers from being fired or discriminated against, or the Healthy Pregnancies/Prisoners and Detainees bill, which would have prohibited the use of leg and waist shackles on prisoners during labor. These bills were never even considered. Instead, the legislature spent the session stripping away the reproductive rights of North Carolinians and putting choice in the hands of the state government.

Here’s a look at some of the new rules and restrictions, what proponents claimed about them, and the scary reality of what the changes will really mean:

Claim: In order to “empower women,” clinics will now be required to give women 72-hours to think about their decision to seek an abortion.

Reality: The law mandates a 72-hour waiting period between asking for an abortion and having the procedure. This equates to two trips to a clinic that may be very far away, two absences from work and, in some cases, two childcare payments. Does that sound like a law that empowers women, or does it sound like one that shames and punishes them? Furthermore, a woman considering abortion may be forced to “think about her decision” for four to five days if her 72 hours end on a day that the clinic is closed, or if she is not able to get in for her next appointment right away. This restrictive law was passed despite testimony from doctors that waiting periods are medically unnecessary and that mandatory delays add risks to an otherwise safe procedure.

Claim: Doctors will now be “held accountable” for performing later-term abortions.

Reality: Starting in January 2016, doctors will be required to record and submit detailed information about the “unborn child” to the Department of Health and Human Services. This law increases the burden on doctors, in the hopes that it will make them less inclined to perform abortions. At the same time, it allows the state to collect confidential data about the patients who undergo constitutionally protected abortion procedures. (Doctors don’t have to report any information about any other type of reproductive procedure, treatment, or diagnosis to DHHS.)

Claim: Abortion providers will no longer receive state funds for any of their pregnancy prevention programs because, given their interest in providing abortions, they can’t be trusted to provide accurate information or working contraceptives.

Reality: This law defunds two proven and highly regarded sex education programs provided by Planned Parenthood. These programs deliver comprehensive and medically accurate sex education with a full range of options, and have contributed to decreasing teen pregnancy rates in the state. The sole result of this law will be to prevent teenagers from access to great programs that previously allowed them to make informed decisions. 

ClaimThe body parts of an “unborn child” can no longer be sold in the state.

Reality: Nobody is selling body parts! The sale of fetal tissue is already federally regulated and in North Carolina, Planned Parenthood, the obvious target of this bill, neither sells nor participates in donation of fetal tissue. However, research that uses fetal tissue is important, and this bill prevents women from having the choice to voluntarily donate fetal tissue after an abortion. It would, for example, prevent a woman who gets an abortion because the fetus has a disease, from donating fetal tissue to research towards a cure for that disease.

Claim: School boards will be given greater freedom to determine the curriculum that teachers use for sex education and will have the ability to create a curriculum that better reflects the values of the community.

Reality: This bill loosens the definition of “experts” permitted to determine the curriculum that teachers use for sex education. Since just about anyone is now considered an expert, teaching the “values of the community,” will likely mean using religion-based programs that teach medically inaccurate abstinence-only sex-ed. This law alters the 2009 Health Youth Act, which was passed for the explicit purpose of increasing access to comprehensive sex education for North Carolina students – a law that has contributed to the steady decline in teen pregnancies across the state.

Claim: Cutting off food assistance to the childless adults will give them the strong motivation they need to find a job.

Reality: Finally, in yet another slap at freedom of choice in reproduction, this bill, if signed by the Governor, would penalize unemployed, childless adults by terminating their supplemental government nutrition program (SNAP) benefits (government food rations). The proposed law would shame and punish a person, not only for not being able to find a job, but also for making the choice not to have children. This bill is yet another, if less obvious, example of how the General Assembly aims to interfere with the reproductive decisions of North Carolinians.Twitter Chat(1)

The bottom line: The legislative majority that campaigned and came to power promising to fight “big government” and to “expand the freedom” of average North Carolinians has, instead, spent the 2015 session (along with lots of state tax dollars) inserting government bureaucracy into the most intimate and personal of human decisions. That’s scary!

Take Action! Join us for our Halloween Eve Twitter chat on October 29 at 7PM. Use the hashtag #ThatsSCARYNC to share what’s scared you during the 2015 legislative session. Have the most retweets by Monday morning and win a free “Politicians Make Crappy Doctors” t-shirt.

A Pattern of Restricting Choice: Why Governor McCrory Must Veto HB 318

Brittney Satterfield, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Organizing Intern and North Carolina Central University Senior

Have you heard of House Bill 318? House Bill 318, or HB 318, is a direct attack on North Carolinians most in need. HB 318 is legislation that permanently terminates government food assistance (also known as supplemental food assistance program or SNAP) for childless adults who are unemployed for 3 months or are in training for fewer than 20 hours per week. In North Carolina, 1,575,676 people participate in SNAP per month on average, making this bill incredibly harmful for millions of people across our state.

Reproductive justice not only asserts that people must have the right to decide when and if they want to become parents, but also that all people must have the economic resources to make healthy decisions about their bodies and their lives. If people do not have the financial means to access healthy and nutritional food, they will be unable to make those decisions. While 1.5 million North Carolinians receive SNAP, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of people will be impacted by this legislation, representing an attack on some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable residents. As reproductive justice advocates, we must understand how this bill will exacerbate the already dire economic circumstances facing many communities in our state.

Vetoing HB 318 seems like the obvious thing to do. Unfortunately, Governor Pat McCrory has a pattern of supporting legislation that harms low-income people in our state. Once elected as governor, he failed to expand Medicaid, effectively denying low-income people access to healthcare in North Carolina. Failure to expand-POP Medicaid left 500,00 North Carolinians without coverage.

Most recently Governor McCrory passed House Bill 465 (HB 465), a bill that will disproportionately harm low-income people across our state. HB 465 tripled the waiting period for abortion services from 24 hours to 72 hours, effectively making North Carolina’s waiting period one of the most extreme in the entire country. HB 465 is detrimental to North Carolinians who may live in rural areas or who do not have the financial resources to be able to take numerous days off of work or pay for childcare as may be required by this medically unnecessary waiting period. By signing this bill, Governor McCrory broke his promise yet again to not sign any further abortion restrictions into law.

Governor McCrory, citizens within North Carolina deserve equity and assistance. Approving bills that ban, bar, or deny sustainability of nutritional value only denies people’s ability to be healthy and thriving North Carolina citizens. As the Governor of the state of North Carolina, you are held accountable for the health and well-being of all people in this state, and HB 318 will serve only to harm some of our most vulnerable residents.

HB 318 is unjust and hinders individuals within our state that need this program the most. Governor McCrory, we call on you to veto HB 318.

The Reproductive Care Crisis: My Experience with CPCs

Conner Sokolovic, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina Intern and East Carolina University Senior 

It was a sunny morning in Greenville, NC, the home of East Carolina University. After a brief drive, I parked in the back lot and walked around the side of the building, concealed for the most part from the main street. “Carolina Pregnancy Center” was lettered on the door. I walked into the small, vacant lobby and took a moment to look at the numerous brochures they had available. The brochures ranged from vague and general information about the center to advertisements for maternity houses (pro-life, religious compounds for pregnant women to stay at during pregnancy), and adoption agencies. None of the brochures provided information for abortion providers or services. Upon closer inspection it was apparent that every brochure was heavily laden with religious (Christian) references and overtones, foreshadowing an agenda that has less to do with helping women and more with promoting ideology.

Eventually, the receptionist came out of a back room, and I began giving her the story – which I rehearsed in my head during the car ride there – about a close friend who was pregnant and wanted information regarding her options. She responded, in what seemed to be a speech more overtly rehearsed than my own, by insisting my “friend” set up an appointment to undergo an ultrasound as soon as possible. When I asked if there was any information that I could bring to my friend, she told me that they did not keep their pregnancy options information in the public waiting room (red flag, anyone?). However, after a little more talking, I convinced her to go into the back area to try get me more information. I like to indulge myself in imagining that this success was due to my charm and charisma, but it is much more likely she was simply new. I heard some muffled talking in the back, and when she emerged, she informed me that the information would be available when my “friend” came in for her appointment. Then, she steered our conversation in the direction of the door. I don’t know about you, but when I think about organizations that claim to help women, I don’t think “clandestine” should be the first word to come to mind.

Carolina Pregnancy Center is one of many so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). They grossly outnumber abortion providers nationally, especially now in the wake of recently passed restrictive legislation. In North Carolina alone, CPCs outnumber abortion providers 8 to 1, and they position themselves in close proximity to universities. In short, CPCs are designed to attract young women looking to evaluate their options regarding pregnancy, and use any means necessary to convince them not to have an abortion. These centers are fueled by religious dogma, and funded by religious organizations. . . and your tax dollars! In the 2013-2015 North Carolina budget, lawmakers allocated $250,000 of YOUR taxpayer dollars to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an umbrella organization that supports more than half of North Carolina’s CPCs. Some states have adopted measures that require these centers to clearly identify that they are not a medical clinic and to not flat out lie. CPCs will shamelessly look someone in the eye and tell them that abortions are linked to cancer. That is one of the many documented completely ridiculous lies that an overwhelming majority of these centers tell.

At East Carolina University, the Crisis Pregnancy Center is located closer to some of the dorms than the actual Student Health Center. It has an extremely well made (and well paid-for) website, and still comes up close to the top of any search engine results that use “pregnancy” and related terms. I grew up in Greenville, and I used to attend church in my middle school and early high school years. I remember the church provided opportunities every summer to volunteer at the Carolina Pregnancy Center. It’s unsettling that these facilities are so inextricably tied to churches. It scares me that, should someone seek advice from a person in their church community regarding a pregnancy, they will likely be referred to avatar_1a70cdc5c2df_512a CPC.

At NC State University, where my younger sister will begin her first year this fall, there are even brochures for a CPC, located just blocks away, mixed in with factual information and referrals to actual medical facilities. I am not only worried about her, but about all of the potentially affected college students.

What we need to do, since we now know the full scope and scale of our problem, is address it whenever possible. Inform your friends about CPCs, and check your university’s website and student health centers for any information that would serve as a referral to a CPC. Then, take action to get it removed! After all, this is ultimately a battle of education.